Hutterite Migrations in Europe (p. 17) 

Mennonites and the Huttarian Brethren share a common origin. Both trace their beginnings to that room on Neustadtgasse in central Zurich where on January 21, 1525, Felix Manz, Conrad Grebel and George Blaurock brought the Anabaptist Church into being. Persecution set in at once and only Blaurock escaped across the Alps to Tyrol where he preached with great success. Blaurock was executed in 1529 but one of his converts Jacob Hutter continued his work.

Austrian authorities were especially harsh in their treatment of Anabaptists. Archduke Ferdinand organized bands of Täuferjäger, Anabaptist hunters, in the territory that he controlled. Southern Moravia the area around Nikolsburg was governed by the dukes Leonard and Johann Lichtenstein who were favourably inclined towards the Anabaptists because of their economic worth. For several decades Moravia was a refuge in Europe for the persecuted Christians. By late spring of 1527 Nikolsburg was a major centre, numbering perhaps as many as 12,000 Anabaptists.

Soon a dispute over the question of pacifism developed between two prominent Anabaptist evangelists Hans Hut and Balthasar Hubmaier. Hut favoured non-resistance and Hubmaier said Christians could participate in military activities. Lichtenstein would not tolerate any division among the refugees he had on his land. The result was that the Stäbler, as the pacifists were called, because they were fewer in number, had to leave Nikolsburg in 1528. On the way to Austerlitz the Stäbler, about 200 adults with their leader Jacob Wiedemann, camped for two nights at Bogenitz an abandoned village. There they made the initial plans to live in a commune and to share all their material possessions like the church in Acts 2. A committee of four was elected to work out the details. The next morning the Stäbler proceeded on their way to Austerlitz. After lengthy negotiations, Wiedemann’s followers were allowed to develop a Bruderhof on a plot of land that had earlier been used as a potter’s market. Initially, the newly organized church did well, and word of their success spread to other Anabaptist communities.

While Wiedemann's church was developing a Bruderhof in Austerlitz two other Anabaptist groups, Gabriel Ascherham's congregation from Silesia and Philip Plener's group from Swabia settled in Rossitz about 35 kilometres west of Austerlitz. They too decided to live in a commune. At first Ascherham and Plener got along well but soon differences developed and Plener took his followers known as Philippites, to Auspitz.

Things were not going well for the Anabaptists in Tyrol. Their leader George Blaurock was captured in Gufidaun and executed in Klausen on September 6, 1529. Their new leader Jacob Hutter had been born in Moos, attended school in Bruneck and apprenticed as a hat maker in Prags. He worked at his trade in Spittal where he also got in contact with the Anabaptists. After his conversion he pastored a church in WeIsberg. When the Anabaptists in the Pustertal (the Rienz­ Drava valley) heard what was happening in Austerlitz they sent Jacob Hutter to see for himself and to report back. Hutter arrived in Austerlitz in 1529 and was favourably impressed. He joined the Stäbler. After his return to Tyrol he dispatched group after group of his church members to Moravia.

The influx of new members from various parts of central Europe created problems in Austerlitz. Factions and conflicts arose over matters such as church discipline, leadership and material possessions. In 1531 George Zaunring and 150 followers left Austerlitz and moved to Auspitz. Finally in 1533 several of the rival groups asked Jacob Hutter from Tyrol to come to Moravia and serve as their leader. When Hutter arrived he was able to resolve some of their contentious issues. In time, the brotherhood came to be known as Hutterites. When severe persecution developed in Moravia, Jacob Hutter and many of his followers fled back to Tyrol. However, Hutter was captured in Klausen and executed in Innsbruck by public burning on February 25, 1536.

In spite of severe persecution the Hutterite Church in Moravia and Austria grew. They were severely tested during December 1539 and January 1540 when state and church officials came to Steinabrunn and imprisoned many Hutterites. After several weeks of harassment they selected ninety able-bodied men and marched them to Trieste where they wanted to use them as galley slaves. Eighty of the prisoners managed to escape and returned to their families. One of the escapees was Casper Braitmichel who later in his life wrote Das Grosse Geschichtsbuch.

Peter Riedemann 1506 - 1556 was. an itinerant minister, and served as elder in the Hutterite Church. He spent a total of nine years in prison. While incarcerated in Wolkersdorf he wrote a detailed confession of faith, which we know today as Riedemann's Rechenschaft.

In Moravia and Slovakia the persecution eased in 1551 and 1552 and the Brethren entered what came to be known as the Good Period (1554 - 1565) and then the Golden Period (1565-1592). Soon they had more then 100 communes and a population of 20,000 to 30,000.

In 1546 Hutterites from Moravia were invited to settle in Sabatisch. That was the first Bruderhof in Slovakia. When the Hutterites were expelled from Moravia at the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War the homeless people used Sabatisch as a place of refuge. During the 1770's and 1780's after the Hutterites had settled in Vishenka they made numerous trips back to Sabatisch to rescue or retrieve their imprisoned brethren.

The Turkish War (1593 - 1606) and the Thirty Years’ War (1618 - 1648) brought great hardships for the Hutterian Brethren. By 1781 all the Hutterites in Moravia and Slovakia had been eradicated. Fortunately one Bruderhof had been preserved in Siebenbürgen

In April 1621, Bethlen Gabar (1580 ­1629), prince of Siebenbürgen, transported 185 Hutterian refugees on eighteen wagons from Neusohl to Thorenburg. They were temporarily sheltered in Radnot, Weissenburg and Badelin. On August 31, 1621, Susanna Carolina Bethlen allowed the deportees to settle in Alwinz. In 1755 a group of Lutherans were deported from Carinthia and settled in villages near Alwinz. Many of them joined the Hutterian Brethren.

In 1762 Maria Theresa made a renewed attempt to root out Anabaptism. The Hutterites were forced to attend Catholic services and their children were taken away from their parents and placed in an orphanage. Two of their ministers, Joseph Kuhr and Johannes Stahl, who refused to comply with these rules, were imprisoned in Klausenburg. In November 1766, they were taken to Sighet and expelled from the country. Kuhr and Stahl walked to Bucharest where they learned that Anabaptists would be tolerated in Walachia (Romania). They secretly returned to Kreuz on August 27, 1767. They planned and directed the escape over the Alps of the remaining 67 persons in the Hutterite community. The day of departure was October 3, 1767. Traveling only at night they crossed the Alps in fourteen days. Miraculously no human lives were lost. Only one horse plunged to its death from a cliff. A remnant had been saved.

They settled first in CiorogirIa (TschoregirIe or also called Kräbach) and then in Prisiceni (Presetschein) a few kilometres southwest of Bucharest. Unfortunately the war between Turkey and Russia broke out again and the Hutterites were harassed by marauding Turkish troops. A representative of General Peter A. Rumiansev (1725 - 1796) invited the Hutterites to the Rumiansev estate northeast of Kiev. In 1770 the weary Hutterites loaded their few remaining earthly goods on five wagons and made their way to Vishenka. When they were safely settled in Vishenka plans were made to rescue their imprisoned brethren in Slovakia and Siebenbürgen. Numerous trips were made back to their former homes. They retrieved about 56 prisoners and their church diary, The Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren, and took them to Vishenka. On the re~ journey they made the first stop in one of the Moravian Brethren villages, Herrnhut, Gnadenfrei or Gnadenfeld. From Silesia they proceeded north to Brenkenhoffswalde, east to Wintersdorf and Obernessau, and then on to Kiev and back home to Vishenka. After the death of Romiansev in 1802 they moved to Radichev.In1842 Johann Cornies, a Mennonite entrepreneur, settled them in Huttertal southwest of the Molotschna Colony. Soon they acquired Johannesruh, a second village in the same area. The Hutterites prospered and a decade later settled three more villages east of Alexandrovsk.

During the 1870's they immigrated to the United States with the Mennonites. After WorId War I many of them moved to Canada. The Hutterites have prospered and increased so that today they number thirty thousand once more.